As Weather Gets Warm, Health Department and HPD Urge New Yorkers to Prevent Avoidable Falls and Increase Child Safety by Installing Window Guards

Properly installed window guards protect children from death and serious injuries

In 2015, three children fell from windows that should have had window guards

May 26, 2016 – As the weather gets warmer and people begin to open their window at home, the Health Department and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) remind New Yorkers that properly installed window guards are a critical safety measure to prevent children from falling out of open windows. To help prevent the tragedy of a child falling from an open window, we are urging New Yorkers to make sure window guards are in place and properly installed.

window guard
Children under the age of five account for two-thirds of all falls reported in New York City; in 2015 three falls were reported from windows that should have had window guards in place.  Last fall, a Con Edison worker saved a toddler from falling from a second-floor window – one that had been blocked only by a piece of cardboard. In addition, twelve falls were reported from single family private dwellings.  Although private dwellings are not regulated under the NYC window guard regulations, we urge all parents to guard the windows in their homes to protect the safety of all children in New York City. 

“Window falls can happen in the bat of an eye, but window guards can prevent them from happening at all,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We urge parents and caregivers to check that all windows at home have window guards properly installed. It is also important to keep the window leading to a fire escape closed at all times.  Other ways to keep children safe from falls include keeping beds, chairs, ladders and other climbable objects away from windows and making sure that children don’t play in hallways unsupervised.”
 
“If you have a young child, please make sure you have window guards in your apartment, and that they are securely in place. Because the bars save lives, landlords are legally required to install window guards in homes with children. The guards are, hands down, the most effective way to stop falls from apartment windows, and prevent serious injuries or even the death of a child, ,” said HPD Commissioner Vicki Been. “If your apartment needs window guards, or if you don’t know whether they’re properly installed, ask your landlord as soon as possible. If your landlord doesn’t respond, call 311 to request an inspection by HPD. We will check the window guard for you.”

Window guard installation is a shared responsibility for owners and tenants. City law requires the owner of any building with three or more units to properly install approved window guards in an apartment where a child 10 years of age or younger lives or attends child care, and they are recommended in any apartment that children regularly visit.

Building owners must obtain this information from their tenants when a new lease is entered into or when a lease is renewed. They are also required to send every tenant a notification form once a year, so that any new need for a window guard may be reported. Tenants are required to fill out the forms accurately and return them to building management.

The Window Guard Law requires building owners to install window guards in any apartment where the tenant requests them. Although not required in one- or two-family homes, people with young children living in these types of dwellings should consider installing guards in any window not used as an emergency exit.

If a building owner refuses to install window guards, tenants should call 311 or go to 311 Online (www.nyc.gov/311) to file a complaint with HPD. Building owners may also call 311 to report tenants who refuse to allow guards to be installed as required by law.
 
HPD is responsible for enforcing the New York City Housing and Maintenance Code (HMC) which allows the agency to respond to tenant complaints, perform inspections and write violations for missing or defective window guards, instructing landlords to correct the conditions that lead to the violations. Owner should comply immediately and certify to HPD that the window guard was installed. If an owner or landlord fails to comply with a window guard violation, HPD will install them and bill the landlord for the cost of the work and applicable administrative fees. Between July 1st, 2015 and March 31, 2016, HPD has issued 9,024 violations in over 6,800 apartments for missing window guards. HPD has installed window guards in more than 1,000 apartments through its Emergency Repair Program when owners have failed to install them after the violation was issued.

If a child 10 years of age or younger lives in your apartment, or if you provide any type of child care services in your apartment, you must:
  • Inform the building owner and/or complete the annual notice provided by the landlord.
  • Allow the building owner or a representative access to the apartment to install window guards or stopping devices that keep windows from opening more than 4½ inches.
  • Never remove window guards or stopping devices once they are installed.
  • Never alter or remove any part of a window guard or stopping device.
Approved Window Guards and Proper Installation

Every window guard must have a Health Department approval number on the inside stile and must be appropriate for the window it occupies. Approved guards do not have spaces large enough for a 5-inch object to pass through. Any guard that has more than a 4½-inch space between the bottom bar and the windowsill, or the top bar and the base of the raised window, is not installed properly.

Here are some guidelines you can use to determine whether your approved window guards are properly installed:
  • On “double-hung windows,” two L-shaped stops should be screwed into the upper window tracks – one on each side – to keep the bottom window from being opened more than 4½ inches above the top bar of a window guard.
  • There should be no opening or space greater than 4½ inches on any window, including double hung, casement or sliders. Approved limiting devices should be installed immediately on any window for which a window guard is unavailable.
  • The window guard must be installed securely and be flush mounted to the window frame on both sides with one-way or tamper-proof screws approved by the Health Department.
  • A window guard installed in a rotting or loose window frame may fall out. These windows should have limiting devices installed that will prevent the window from opening more than 4½ inches until a window guard can be securely installed in the frame.
Additional recommendations to prevent window falls:
  • Carefully check window guards periodically to ensure that they are secure.
  • If a window has an air conditioner, it must be permanently installed with one way metal screws.  Spaces on either side of the air conditioner that are greater than 4½ inches must be covered by a rigid panel that can withstand 150 lbs. of pressure (instead of accordion panels) and “L” stops must be used to prevent any unguarded space above or below the air conditioner from exceeding 4½ inches.
  • Keep children off balconies and terraces if they are not being closely supervised by an adult by locking doors to those areas.
  • Never let your child play near elevator shafts or on fire escapes, balconies, terraces or rooftops. Don’t let them play unsupervised in building hallways that have unguarded windows. 
  • Call 311 to report unguarded hallway windows.

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MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Christopher Miller: cmiller7@health.nyc.gov
Melissa Grace (HPD): gracem@hpd.nyc.gov
pressoffice@health.nyc.gov